After watching one of the competitors on Top Chef plate a spoon full of 'garbanzo beans' (i.e. chickpeas) and call it cassoulet the other night, I was inspired to try and make our own version of the traditional French pork and bean stew. We had some pork and liver sausage, some ribs and lots of beans (feel free to substitute any legumes you like), so the rest was actually quite simple. To make cassoulet, it really just requires a bit of patience and lots of tasty, hearty ingredients as well as the right herbs, and some bread crumbs to dust on top. There's a lots of different versions out there, but we roughly followed an old Julia Child recipe for ours.
Recipe: Pork and beans cassoulet
4 pork & liver sausages, parboiled and sliced into medallions
1lb spare ribs, parboiled and sliced
1 red onion, diced
4 celery shoots, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large can of whole tomatoes, pureed (or buy already crushed tomatoes if you don't have a food processor. But they'll taste way better if they're whole and you do the pureeing at home)
1C lima beans, rehydrated or canned
1/2C fava beans, rehydrated or canned
1/2C kidney beans, rehydrated or canned
1/4C drinking wine
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2C of bread crumbs
1 bunch of fresh thyme, tied tightly
First off, parboil your ribs and and sausages in a large pot for about half an hour or until they're cooked through and starting to get tender. Set meat aside and save the liquid to add as stock later. When the meat is cool enough to handle, slice sausage into medallions and tear the ribs into small pieces. Next, Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
In the same pot, add the olive oil and adjust to medium-high heat. Saute your chopped onion, celery and carrots for 3 to 5 minutes or until they start to soften.
Add the meat back to the pot and stir briefly. next, dump in all of the beans and stir the pureed can of tomatoes throughout the meat, beans and vegetables. Now add whatever wine your drinking and then pour in enough of your reserved meat stock to fully submerge everything in the pot by about a half inch or so. Drop in the bunch of thyme, tied tightly in twine, and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
Remove the thyme and dust the top of the cassoulet evenly with a quarter inch of bread crumbs, no more and no less. If you want, you can also try cutting the bread crumbs 50-50 with finely grated Parmesan to give it a rich, but decidedly unFrench finish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden-brown.